As the Pokémon Go phenomenon marches on, players are increasingly turning to fan-made apps in their quest to catch ’em all.
It’s no wonder why — as players keep overloading the game’s server capacity, Pokémon Go developer Niantic seems to have turned off critical Pokémon-tracking features just to keep up. It means that these outside apps are often the only way to know where any given Pokémon is hiding.
So let’s just say it off the top: using these apps is cheating and might get you banned. The vast majority of these apps are explicitly against Niantic’s rules, and if you use them, there’s a very good chance they will ban your Pokémon Go account permanently.
Here’s the pertinent part of Pokémon Go’s policy, buried about halfway through. You agreed to this policy when you signed up for the game, even if you didn’t read it. It says you cannot:
“…attempt to access or search the Services or Content, or download Content from the Services through the use of any technology or means other than those provided by Niantic or other generally available third-party web browsers (including, without limitation, automation software, bots, spiders, crawlers, data-mining tools, or hacks, tools, agents, engines, or devices of any kind)….”
That also covers stuff like GPS spoofing, a technique that some players are using to trick their phones into thinking they are where they’re not, meaning they can catch
Pokémon from around the globe while sitting on their couch. Once Niantic figures them out, it’s likely to be Bye-Bye, Butterfree.
The good news is, some mapping tools like the mega-popular Pokevision, which works with a web browser, doesn’t require you to use any login. So they won’t know it’s you.
But another Niantic’s terms of service also prohibits “extract, scrape, index, copy, or mirror,” meaning they’d be within their rights to shut down Pokevision, too. That goes for iPhone apps like the similar PokeWhere, as well.
But they require you to enter a game account login, since that’s how it accesses the Pokémon location data. Plus, some of them charge for premium services, like this screenshot of PokeDetector offering you a Premium upgrade so you can choose which Pokémon you get notified about.
That’s another no-no according to Niantic. Be warned.
And while savvy players are creating throwaway, one-
time use accounts just for the app, lots of players are using their main Pokémon Go account. And whether you’re using a Google account or a Pokémon Trainer’s Club account to log in, Niantic can definitely see what you’re doing.
So, yes, it’s frustrating that Pokémon Go is currently broken to the point where it’s way harder than it needs to be to find hidden Pokémon. Just know that you’re taking your account and your future Pokémon journeys into your own hands if you use them.
And while the Pokémon Go servers are all funky, it’s still pretty legit to use “Ingress,” Niantic’s previous game, as a tool to help hunt rare Pokémon. Here’s how.
Niantic did not respond to a request for comment, but we’ll update if we hear back.